Michigan’s Dingell, Longest Serving U.S. Congressman, Cites Partisan Gridlock in Retirement

The “dean of the House,” U.S. Rep. John Dingell touched landmark legislation during his more than 58 years in Congress, but decried "small-minded miserable behavior" during government shutdown.

Dearborn Democrat John Dingell was elected to Congress in 1955 to replace his late father. He said Monday he will retire at the end of his 29th term. (Patch file photo)
Dearborn Democrat John Dingell was elected to Congress in 1955 to replace his late father. He said Monday he will retire at the end of his 29th term. (Patch file photo)

Dearborn Democratic Congressman John Dingell, the longest-serving member ever of the U.S. House of Representatives, has announced that he will retire at the end of his 29th term, the Detroit News reports.

Dingell, 87, was elected to Congress in a special election 58 years ago to fill his father’s unexpired term. During his more than half a century in office, he became one of the the most powerful members of Congress ever, the newspaper said.

Considered the “dean of the House” because of his long tenure, he surpassed the late U.S. Rep Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia  in June as the longest-serving congressman.

“He’s certainly a giant in the history of the institution,” Dave Dulio, chairman of the Oakland University political science department, told the newspaper.

His legacy includes work on landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act, the Medicare health-care program for seniors, the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts, and the Affordable Care Act. He has been a stalwart supporter of Michigan’s auto industry, defeating or tempering air pollution and safety rules that he said excessively raised costs, according to

Among the factors he cited in his decision to retire from the 12th District was continued frustration with partisan gridlock. During the partial government shutdown in October, he delivered a fiery speech on the House floor and said he had “never seen such small-minded miserable behavior in this House of Representatives and such a disregard of our responsibilities to the people.”

“The American people could get better government out of monkey island in the local zoo,” he said. “I’m embarrassed and I’m humiliated, and I certainly hope that my colleagues on both sides — especially on the Republican side — are embarrassed. This is going to cost us huge amounts of money.”

The Detroit Free Press reports there had been speculation for some time that Dingell might retire, but in an email to constituents earlier this month, he pledged to continue to fight for extended unemployment benefits for jobless workers in Michigan, where the unemployment rate remains above the national average.

Dingell’s wife, Deborah, has been mentioned as a possible successor to her husband, as has state Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor. The 12th District is considered a relatively safe Democratic district and includes Dearborn, Clinton Township, Eastpointe, Ferndale, Fraser, Madison Heights, Roseville, Royal Oak, Southfield, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights and Warren.

Dingell is not the only Michigan official leaving Capitol Hill after November’s mid-term elections. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, also plans to retire after 35 years.


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